When I finally announced my pregnancy to friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances, I heard a lot about "sacrifices." Of course, the majority of those "sacrifices" were things I was going to forfeit as a soon-to-be mom. I was going to sacrifice my body and my sleep and my time and possibly my friendships. Some people were right, many were wrong, but what I didn't hear about were the sacrifices my partner would be making, too. No one seems concerned about the things he'd be giving up, as a father. Thankfully, the sacrifices my partner made the first year of parenthood ended up saving me, in ways I wasn't really cognizant of until I was in the throes of postpartum life, needing someone to go through this thing called parenthood with me.
Now, I think it's important to clear up what I mean when I say "sacrifice," because that's such a heavy-handed word that evokes a lot of emotion and assumptions. I don't necessarily consider the things my partner did for me (and our son) to be "sacrifices" in a way that caused him suffering or where particularly difficult or were even something far and beyond what should be expected of any involved co-parent. What my partner did for me that assisted me in taking care of our son, and assisted our family in functioning when we were trying to figure out how we were going to parent, aren't really "sacrifices," but necessities. However, he was sacrificing the same way I was sacrificing. For example, getting up in the middle of the night when I would rather sleep, is a sacrifice. Waking up early to feed my son when I would rather have a lazy Saturday morning and sleep in, is a sacrifice. Necessary? Of course. Still kind of a pain? Absolutely.
So, while I knew I would be sacrificing certain things for our son, it was refreshing to see my partner sacrificing, too. After all, we made the decision to become parents together, which meant we would eventually be parenting another human being, together. With that in mind, here are a few "sacrifices" my partner made that ended up saving my ass the first year of motherhood. #Teamwork
My Partner Cooked The Majority Of The Meals
Usually my partner and I split cooking duties. However, after I had our son and for the few (read: many) months that followed, he handled all of the cooking. I know that it wasn't necessarily fair, but I was so focused on feeding our son (I was exclusively breastfeeding) that he took it upon himself to feed the rest of the people in our home.
In the end, this shift in responsibility worked really well for us, but I do realize that making him completely responsible for any and all home-cooked meals was a sacrifice on his part. After all, sometimes cooking is the worst.
My Partner Took Over The Laundry
To be fair, I took over 100 percent of the dishwashing, so I think this change ended up benefiting all involved. However, I maybe did the laundry a handful of times the first year our son was born. It was easier for my partner to handle the never-ending loads of baby clothes (and clothes with baby spit-up splattered all over them), and he was more into folding clothes than cleaning dishes, so that's how we divided the housework.
He kept our clothes clean and I kept our forks and spoons clean. Win-win.
My Partner Cleaned The Cat Box
It's not safe for a pregnant woman to clean a cat's litter box, so my partner handled the cat droppings for nine long months. Like the grown-ass man he is, he continued to clean it after our son was born, and has made it his sole responsibility since. I make sure the cat is fed and has water, and he cleans up her poop and pee.
It's a pretty easy division of pet ownership responsibility, however I know this is somewhat of a sacrifice for my partner. He absolutely hates doing it. Like, with a passion. He loathes it and I can see the disdain on his face when he travels to the bathroom to take care of the cat's business. He's a warrior, that man.
My Partner Handled Family Members
Whether it was the well-intentioned family members who wanted to visit a few days (sometimes a few hours) after the baby was born, to the parents who were adamant about us taking a cross-country trip for the holidays when our baby was 4-months-old, my partner handled the potentially awkward conversations when it came to family members and expectations.
Of course, after a few weeks postpartum I was able to get my feet underneath me and deal with other people besides the newborn baby attached to my boobs, but knowing that my partner was more than willing to "take the heat" when a new grandparent was going to be upset about this schedule change or that canceled visit, made all the difference.
My Partner Didn't Take Things Personally
With the raging postpartum hormones and the self-doubt I couldn't help but feel and being touched out and suffering from postpartum depression, I wasn't necessarily "myself" after I had a baby. In fact, it took a while to get used to motherhood and my postpartum body, and feel like I knew who I was now that I was someone's mom.
Thankfully, my partner didn't take it personally. Honestly, it would have been easy for him to, because a few of my fears and insecurities and frustrations were unfairly directed towards him. He took the brunt of my emotional exhaustion, but he did it because he knew what I had been through when it came to pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum life. He was more than willing to be somewhat of an emotional punching bag (without it ever crossing into abuse, of course) and I knew that I could lean on him when and if I needed to.
My Partner Didn't Stress About Sex Or Intimacy
Now, and to be clear, I don't think "not having sex" is a sacrifice, per say. I mean, waiting the six weeks (or more) should be a given, because sex isn't "owed" to someone by someone else regardless of the relationship those two people share. Because, you know, consent.
However, I'm a sexual person so I know that going a long period of time without sexual contact can be difficult. After all, masturbation can only take you so far (even though it's kind of awesome). So while I won't throw my partner a parade for going without sex until I felt ready — because, again, bodily autonomy and consent — I do think it's important to acknowledge that it's not easy. We all want to feel connected and intimate and passionate with someone. I know that I missed having sex with my partner, too, but I also had to heal from labor and delivery, had to connect with myself and my new body, and had to find the energy to actually have sex.
My Partner Did All The Driving
I used to love, and I mean love, driving. It was my way to find neutral and relax and just de-stress. Before I had a baby I would get in my car, drive with no destination in mind, listen to music and cruise.
Now? Well, now I have this irrational fear of vehicles. I feel an extreme amount of anxiety any time I am in a car, and especially if my son is in the car with me. I just can't handle it, so my partner drives. Of course, he doesn't really mind so I'm not sure this qualifies as a "sacrifice," but still; I'm grateful.
My Partner Handled All The Googling
This was really for both of our benefit, because when left to my own Googling devices it was highly likely that I'd end up convinced I have cancer or my son has cancer or everyone I know and love has cancer and we're all going to die a horrible death.
Google is evil, you guys. Web MD and Google are just evil.
My Partner Slept On The Couch On A Way Too Frequent Basis
My partner and I chose to co-sleep with our baby; a decision made the first night of his life. He had a difficult time regulating his body temperature, so our doctors and nurses suggested that he sleep in bed with me, skin-to-skin. My body was able to help his body regulate its temperature, and from that night on my baby and I slept in the same bed.
However, three people in a bed (even when one person is very, very small) can get crowded, so my partner took one for the team and slept on our living room couch a good majority of the time. It was so much easier, since I was the one breastfeeding our son, but I know that sleeping on a couch for almost a year isn't all that enjoyable.
My Partner Let Me Emotionally Vomit All Over Him A Time Or Two (Or Twelve)
I had some feelings when I was postpartum, you guys. I was unsure of myself and I was afraid that I wouldn't be a great mother and I wanted to keep working but I felt guilty that I loved my career as much as I did (and do) and I was just knee-deep in all the feels.
So, my partner listened to me every time I had a mild (or not-so-mild) freak out. I think this is (or should be) par for the relationship course, but it doesn't mean it's not a sacrifice to listen to someone have an existential crisis very other day, especially when you know they're going to be fine. He was always kind and supportive and patient with me and my feelings, which meant the world to me (especially when I emerged from the postpartum haze of exhaustion and sleep deprivation).
My Partner Gave Me More Than 50 Percent
In my opinion, relationship are never a 50/50 split of give and take. More often than not, one person will require more from the other, so it's more of a 60/40 or a 70/30 situation. As long as the pendulum swings in the opposite direction — so both partners are getting what they need, and giving what the other person needs, when necessary — I think it's safe to assume you have a pretty healthy relationship.
However, for over a year I would say that my partner consistently gave me more than 50 percent. Of course, that's because for about a year, I was giving him (and our future family) more than my 50 percent. I was growing a human being in my body, then pushing that human being from my body and into the world, and then recovering from pregnancy and labor and delivery and feeding that human being with my body. He saw, firsthand, the percentage I was willing to give him and our soon-to-be family of three, so he didn't consider his postpartum contributions to be "sacrifices." In the end, it was just part of being in a relationship. He was just being a member of our new family.